MAR 22, 2022 1:40 PM PDT

Self-Replicating RNA Molecules Show How Life May Have Arose

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Cells use the genetic information contained in DNA to generate proteins, which carry out many of the processes of life. RNA is the intermediate molecule; it is transcribed from DNA, then edited, before being translated into proteins. Scientists have long sought to understand how all these molecules fit together when life first started. One prevailing theory is that life may have begun about 4 billion years ago not with DNA, but with RNA molecules. A new study has added some credence to that idea.

Image credit: Pixabay

Researchers have now engineered an RNA molecule that is able to replicate, and like what happens in evolution, it can change and add complexity. The RNA encodes for an enzyme called a replicase, which can create copies of the molecule. RNA replication has been a challenge to develop. This may be the first concrete evidence that life can emerge from a simple set of molecules. In this study, the self-replicating RNA molecule diversified into five separate lineages. The work has been reported in Nature Communications.

"We found that the single RNA species evolved into a complex replication system: a replicator network comprising five types of RNAs with diverse interactions, supporting the plausibility of a long-envisioned evolutionary transition scenario," said first study author and Project Assistant Professor Ryo Mizuuchi of the University of Tokyo.

There is a concept called the 'competitive exclusion principle' in evolutionary biology, which suggests that if more than one species is competing for the same resource, they can't coexist. Thus, molecules also have to use different resources to sustain diversification, explained Mizuuchi. "They are just molecules, so we wondered if it were possible for nonliving chemical species to spontaneously develop such innovation."

At first, the researchers doubted "that such diverse RNAs could evolve and coexist," said Mizuuchi. This study showed otherwise, and may help us answer the question of how life first emerged on our planet. This work is just the beginning, added Mizuuchi. The system developed in this study will allow the researchers to investigate evolutionary processes at a new level of resolution.

Sources: University of Tokyo, Nature Communications

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 28, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
A Genetic Cause of Lupus is Identified
APR 28, 2022
A Genetic Cause of Lupus is Identified
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can impact anyone, but tends to affects women between the ages of 15 and 45. The dis ...
MAY 10, 2022
Immunology
A Failed Immunotherapy Trial Leads to a Crucial Discovery
MAY 10, 2022
A Failed Immunotherapy Trial Leads to a Crucial Discovery
Immunotherapies, which boost a patient's immune system so it's better at fighting cancer, have been a game-chang ...
MAY 19, 2022
Neuroscience
Fruits and Vegetables May Reduce ADHD Symptoms in Children
MAY 19, 2022
Fruits and Vegetables May Reduce ADHD Symptoms in Children
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may help reduce inattention issues in children with Attention deficit hyperactivity ...
MAY 24, 2022
Neuroscience
Brain Circuit in Anterior Thalamus Plays a Key Role in Memory Function
MAY 24, 2022
Brain Circuit in Anterior Thalamus Plays a Key Role in Memory Function
MIT researchers recently published a study in Brain Sciences that sheds light on neurocognitive functioning. In particul ...
JUN 15, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Membraneless Organelles are Linked to Alzheimer's
JUN 15, 2022
Membraneless Organelles are Linked to Alzheimer's
In recent years, scientists have found that some liquids inside of cells behave like oil and vinegar do - droplets of li ...
JUN 24, 2022
Plants & Animals
New research strengthens understanding of how animals see, and in what colors
JUN 24, 2022
New research strengthens understanding of how animals see, and in what colors
We’ve all what animals see. Do they see the same way humans do in terms of colors, or is the vision of each animal ...
Loading Comments...